Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

Piglets in single file
March 3, 2012, 8:28 am


Dear Family and Friends,

My first face to face meeting with a bushpig was very early in the morning when I went to check on two baby elephants that were  in my care, being hand reared after they had been left orphaned in a culling operation. The elephants spent the night in a safe enclosure which was secured with poles which slotted horizontally across the opening. Every afternoon a deep bed of hay would be prepared in the enclosure for the little elephants, so deep that it easily reached my waist. Every morning the poles would be removed and the elephants let out into the game park. One morning I arrived to find the elephants asleep in the hay – with a friend! It was a very large bushpig which woke up in fright and charged straight at me. Luckily the very deep hay slowed the animal’s forward momentum and gave me a chance to run. I learned to climb an eight foot fence that day! I stood panting and shaking on the other side, looking at this fearsome,  grey, hairy creature snorting and puffing at me through the wire. For a few moments the 100 kilogram wild pig and I stared at each other, not sure who was more scared, then the bushpig turned and trotted off into the long grass and disappeared into the bush.

In years that followed I had other encounters with bushpigs, always early in the morning, but none so close or frightening, and most which  involved shouting and running, chasing them out of the maize we grew on our farm to feed the livestock. I never thought then that it would be a treat to see  bushpigs which are mostly thought of as crop raiding pests which dig under fences and root around in crops doing a lot of damage.

On a recent journey through what used to be a very productive farming area, my eyes were peeled. Farm after farm for more than thirty kilometres was largely deserted. Fences gone, houses stripped, roofs removed, window and door frames gone and even brick walls being dismantled. Giant trellises in perfect straight rows which once supported hops, now have a few stunted maize plants growing between the supports. The road was in a shocking state; it was impossible to travel at more than 20 kilometres an hour, as you zig-zagged between deep, gaping gullies and treacherous holes. All I could think was how sad it was that the tall  thriving crops which used to sway in the warm wind here, have been replaced by  a few mud and thatch huts which stand alongside little squares of pale, stunted maize. How sad that we are still seeing such a desperate, impoverished situation eleven years after farm takeovers. This year the harvest predictions from the national grain crop are that it will provide less than one sixth of our needs. 

Then, on the road ahead, a ‘sounder’ of bushpig crossed from one side to the other. A large boar, four or five big sows and in between the adults, running behind each other in single file, came the fat, black piglets, perhaps ten or twelve of them. It was a sight to lift flagging spirits, to know that some have survived.  It’s hard to know how many species have been able to survive the orgy of hunting, poaching and habitat destruction of the last eleven years. A time when farms have become lawless, no-go areas and where most people have no idea of what’s really been going on.  Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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